Turns out my kids are amazing travelers and seem to have a thing for cities just like their mom. We drove up to D.C. on Tuesday for a twenty-six-hour trip and did as much as their tiny legs(and the parking meters) would let us. We started our trip with a visit to my dad’s gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery and then we went to some of his favorite haunts which felt really strange…really strange. But isn’t that what you need to do with your memories? Visit them and tease forgotten ones out of the deep folds of your brain? Because that’s what we did and it hurt but ultimately made me feel closer to him than I normally do. We walked the streets of Arlington and D.C. with a ghost by our side. Justin and I shared stories…great big stories filled with laughter and memories of times gone by. Our hours were filled with as much family lore and tales as actual history and tradition.
We devoured a very early dinner at Ray’s Hellburger and filled our stomach to tour the monuments. After realizing the streets in D.C. are not easy to navigate between 4 and 6:30, we visited the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, World War II Memorial, Vietnam Memorial and peeked at the White House. We did it all in forty-five minutes because of the parking meter(well, they aren’t meters anymore but those little things you pay at stopped at 4 and we couldn’t figure out what happened at 6:30 so we just walked really quickly.) We were walking so quickly that Eva slipped down a few steps at the Lincoln Memorial and at one point we had to let the ones with the longer legs go on ahead to save the car from whatever fate lay ahead of it.
From there we moved on over to Georgetown and went to my new fav store Lush. I wanted to buy some of their awesome face masks but they were sold out and you can’t order them online because they are fresh and need to stay refrigerated. Have no fear, I found something else to satisfy my need for beauty products. Then we checked out some more shops on our trek to Georgetown Cupcake but never even ended up going there because the line was insane. The kids got fro-yo instead and Justin and I took them down to the river, sat at a bar and had a beer and raw oysters. I’d prefer that to a cupcake a lot of days…a lot not all.
The kids and I dropped Justin off the next morning after we had breakfast at my dad’s old Starbucks and went to the zoo on one of the hottest days of the summer. I got a little lost going around DuPont Circle and felt like I was in a Chevy Chase movie but my most awesome fourteen-year-old co-pilot found the way using the GPS. We trekked up and down and all around the free zoo(after $22 for parking and $41.50 for three sandwiches for lunch). For me, the highlight took place in the first ten minutes when we saw the pandas hanging out munching on bamboo. I take that back…the highlight was spending the day with my kids without them arguing. We were on the same team the whole day…and we wanted to be on the same team. No one bickered. No one teased, poked or prodded. We just moved together as one not-so-little family and that was the happiest moment of my twenty-six-hours out of suburbia.
They squabble. Sometimes squabble is too mild of a term to describe what they do. The glass door of the shower shakes as they run upstairs to list their grievances and place blame. I escape to the bathroom or hide in my closet to find a quiet moment and count the minutes until I get a little reprieve. And then they broker some sort of peace agreement and play soccer until a too tall brother accidentally kicks the soccer ball into an unprepared sister. Or they play Minecraft on separate devices until someone sets someone else’s house on fire or the batteries simultaneously run out on all of the kindles and they can only find one charger. During those moments, I feel the weight of being their mom and summer vacation.
But then we go to the river and hang out on the rocks and I sit back and watch. I watch them help each other move from rock to rock and navigate the little pools of water. I hear them giggle as they throw rocks into the water and find baby ducks looking for their next meal. I look up and see the smiles and the eyes glistening in the sun and during those moments I feel the magic in all that it means that they are mine. These little personalities belong to me and make my heart grow and explode with love.
Because there are four of them I’m not the mom I ever thought I would be. The oldest had strict rules when he was little. He couldn’t watch TV with pushing or fighting. He didn’t know the word gun until he walked into preschool at age four. His diet was monitored closely making sure every bite was filled with the best possible food. And now number three and number four know more bad words than I do. Ethan’s diet consists mostly of ice pops somedays. They’ve watched Hunger Games(I know…Bad Mother of the Year Award!). But because there are four of them, they also have someone in peace and in war. And they’re mine, even if my idea of what that means changes each day. Some days we’re thriving and other days we’re striving to just make it through. And I want to gather them up and guard all their freckles and hold them in my arms for the rest of our days because I’m the luckiest mom in the world to be entrusted with these fearless little souls.
One of the reasons I’m so excited about my new adventure with Booktrope is that I get to meet some great new authors. I wanted to share this new release with you…it looks fab!
Booktrope has released the fifth paranormal romance in Lilian Roberts’ Immortal Rapture Series. Arielle Immortal Journey is the first completely new book we’ve seen from the author since 2013. The novel continues the love affair between part-time telepath Arielle Lloyd and her immortal fiancé Sebastian Gaulle; but, this volume includes an exciting time travel element to shake things up.
Arielle Immortal Journey
An invitation to magic…
As the love story between engineering student Arielle Lloyd and her Immortal fiancé, the striking Sebastian Gaulle, continues, Arielle is invited to attend a meeting of the secret Veneti Society. She readily accepts as she must learn to use her powerful amulet and mystical book of spells to protect herself from constant danger.
Sebastian’s company is about to introduce advanced security systems to protect their global operations, but the head of Russian intelligence is determined to infiltrate the company and use it to his own ends. The Russians failed once, but they’ve vowed to stop at nothing this time, even if it means the destruction of all that Sebastian loves.
A journey to the past…
As a gift from her Immortal friend Eva, Arielle is whisked back in time to the 18th century to a glittering ball in Calais. There, she meets Sebastian as a mortal man, before he was given immortality. Although he does not recognize her, their souls connect instantly. But a jealous Immortal wants to possess Arielle as his own and vows to hunt her through eternity — and he’s not the only one. With this new evil threatening her, Arielle’s ancient amulet and her powerful friends may not be enough to keep her safe.
Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Last week was a big week. I achieved things I didn’t know were possible. A fabulous publishing company, Booktrope, offered me a book deal. And it felt weird. A wise friend asked me why it felt so weird. Was it achieving my lifelong goal or was it the fact that I was picked that felt so odd? And I’ve thought about it for the last few days…over and over and my answer surprised me. It’s the fact that I was picked. The fact that someone picked me before other people.
Why is that weird you ask? Because this forty-two-year-old purveyor of Bar Farley, preschool teacher, author and mother to four sometimes well-adjusted children is still the ten-year-old who was picked last for kickball at recess. I’m still the one who got out first when we played dodgeball in the days when dodgeball was an official sport in PE class. I’m the one who volleyed between groups of kids and never really fit in. And I’m learning now, thirty-two years later, that it’s hard to change the way you see yourself.
I’ve worked hard. I work hard every day trying to balance work and kids. My lines get all blurry as I sneak in a few minutes on the computer and a quick trip to play mini-golf. But I do it because I want to and most of me can’t imagine any other way. But it’s still hard to think that I deserve it and I’m not that little girl with the pixie cut blushing in the last row.
So I need to look up at the sky and say thank you to this gorgeous universe that sometimes grants us our deepest desires. And I have to look in the mirror and shake my head and realize I’m that forty-two-year-old who sometimes feels the insecurities deep into her toes. But I’m also this girl who is filled with gratitude for the opportunities I have been served. All of the sudden, I’m the mom who has a great lesson to share with her kids…because now I can tell them with great certainty they will get picked…when the time is right.
It’s easy to get lost when the calendar starts to clear and the lunches no longer need to be packed. Instead, days are filled with I want-to and I should-be and lazy moments of deciding exactly what to do. And my happy gets lost in the pile of wet beach towels and muddy flip-flops. You know me well enough by now to know I over-analyze every situation and event and I’m not good at pretending a moment is happy when it isn’t. I try to live this one crazy life with a sense of authenticity. And that’s a gift I hope to give to my kids…it’s okay to feel the full realm of emotions. But within that realm it is always possible to find the happy.
I’ve been looking for a summer project other than making sure book three is published and completing the other two books mostly on paper and partially in my head. I’ve contemplated reading a certain number of books before school starts, studying French poetry, baking a new macaron recipe every week or training for a triathlon. But I decided on our five hundred mile drive this weekend, my goal will be simpler. I’m going to find the happy in my days and tiny moments. Because as I’ve said before, it’s not the big things—the books being published, the games being won or the gorgeous vacations—that make our lives happy. It’s the glimpse of the camellia blooming on the deck, the smile of a freckle-faced little girl pretending to be happy at her brother’s baseball game, the pitch that turns into a strike you didn’t know he could throw, the cover of the Parisian journal a dear friend gave you and handing back the rest of the bag of your favorite Cool Ranch Doritos to a toothless seven-year-old.
Are you ready to fast forward through my obsession with moments? Sorry…you can’t because I think it’s a constant battle to remember it’s not the big things in life that matter. Especially in the zip code I live in where sometimes the motto seems to be “Go big or go home.” And it is easy to think your happy place is in someone else’s backyard. So my mission, my project if you will, this summer is to find the happy. The happy that exists if there’s sand between my toes or sweat dripping down my cheeks on the baseball field. The happy that can be elusive or as obvious as the Empire State Building. Will you join me and share your happy moments with me?
I feel so connected to people. I see their snaps on Facebook and Instagram. The smiling faces of momentous occasions. The pictures of a crowning achievement—a graduation, baby born, race run or a cake baked. Brave souls show the messes. The kids with mismatched clothes throwing a temper tantrum in Target. Piles of laundry unfolded and not sorted. Dinner burned or scorned and replaced with a dreaded Happy Meal. I meet people in Target and they know things about me and in turn, I know things about them. And we assume we know so much more because we’re privy to this little portrait on social media.
But those pictures, those status updates, they’re a glimpse into a moment. And you know how I love moments. Moments carry us from minutes to hours, from days to years.. And sometimes one little moment is worth a thousand missing words. The picture of the perfectly iced cake leaves out the tears that fell into the frosting or the reason all she could do was bake a cake to lose herself in a world of sugar. The medal around the neck earned while escaping the demons he was running from to begin with. There’s a lot behind the closed doors of our lives that eludes the 140 characters in a tweet. The smiling faces we meet at the grocery store carry stories—stories of pain and equally of happiness.
Why on this day—this last day of school, this Friday the 13th and the day of a full honey moon—am I thinking of all of this? Because I’m thinking about how important it is to be kind. To share a smile with a room filled with people you know well and others you know well virtually. Because these lives we intersect with are filled with missed chances, broken hearts, twinkling eyes, loves lost and found, things that can barely standing the test of time, much happiness and a tiny bit of despair, first world problems and things that are heavy and hard in every world. And when you smile know that you might not always really know exactly where the other person is on this great continuum of this thing we call life.
Today is the day I get to say a temporary so long to my least favorite task…packing lunches. I pack four lunches a day for approximately 180 days give or take a few snow days, half days or special events. Still, that’s a lot of lunches. Am I alone in saying the mind numbingly dull task of packing your child’s lunch is the worst?
I intend to put so much thought and energy into the calories my kids gather from their lunches. I pin ideas from Pinterest that look delightful. I look at my preschoolers lunches and get more ideas to make my kids’ lunch box more exciting and appealing. I make sure everything’s BPA free. I pack it all up in a cute little Tupperware so we save the earth from the dreaded Ziplocs until I don’t feel like rinsing out the Tupperware and I throw it in the Ziplocs that will fill the landfills of yesteryear. I pack little containers of hummus and fresh veggies and one of my kids (no names but he’s missing a lot of front teeth) brings me back a lunch box filled with containers filled with hummus and no longer fresh veggies each day. Or I walk up to the third floor and find the dog eating a sandwich from a certain high schoolers backpack. So, I try dips and turkey roll ups. Bagels with organic cream cheese. Yogurt with fresh fruit or yogurt with Oreos mixed inside. Sliced mango, pineapple, grapes or strawberries. Napkins with secret messages of love. But then after Monday passes, I resort to a lunch that typically ends up all one color—kind of orangey brown—goldfish, a Chips Ahoy, mandarin oranges and a pb&j. The only difference in color being the smears of grape jelly from the squeezable container on the sides of the Tupperware.
So let me rejoice for a few days or weeks as I celebrate the leaving behind of the lunch containers and instead turn to my new temporary job as a short order cook to four children who will likely never agree to eat the same thing while mom is at the stove. Oh, I’m sure I’ll be longing for the lunch boxes in no time at all but until then I’ll enjoy the one sign that our carefree days of summer are upon us.
I woke up to an e-mail from one of my dad’s best friends this morning. He wanted me to know he was thinking about my dad and how much my dad had helped him through some difficult parts of his life. Almost all of his friends who I’ve been in touch with since he passed away three and a half years ago, have told me they always looked forward to their birthdays because it meant a call from my dad. He never missed a birthday. And they all knew they would miss him most on their own birthdays.
Today is my dad’s seventy-second birthday and the fact that he’s not here to celebrate it stings as much as it did on his birthday six months after he died. Our relationship was complicated and I used to think it was dysfunctional. I spent many days and nights wondering if he actually loved me. I remember wondering as a lonely freshman in college hundreds of miles from home, how a father could let his wife-of-the-moment tell his daughter she couldn’t stay at his house. I remember the moment I realized and overheard him say he needed me to be something more than I was—a pretty smart teenaged girl without many differentiating qualities. But it was at the end, and in the years just prior to his death, that there was no question of his love for me and for my family. He made the drive from DC countless times to be present at the many important events in our lives. He talked to my kids and spent time getting to know them and accepting them for exactly who they were. And we spent copious amounts of time on the phone discussing everything from politics to writing. I also began to realize everyone has some form of dysfunction and our family was no different.
But now, I have so many questions to ask him and things I need him to help me figure out. I want him to answer questions about his life. I want to know what made him realize I was a daughter worthy of his time…and if there was really a time where I wasn’t or it’s just the tricky thing we like to call our memory playing games with me. I have a box full of papers that each time I open I find more questions to ask.
The signs from him have become fewer and farther between. So I find the questions I throw out into the universe don’t get answered as quickly as I’d like. Maybe that’s because with each passing day he’s still on my mind but he’s become more and more disconnected from my daily life as he’s gone from my physical world. But I see him and hear him in Alex and each time it sends shivers up my spine. Alex’s voice and the way he says certain things remind me my dad’s still here scattered into each of us.
So today I started this post because I’m looking for answers to questions about my dad that are too long to list. I also wrote a paragraph in my novel about trying to find answers after a person has died. Answers are the thing I’m searching for…and when I went upstairs and moved the book I’d been reluctantly reading (it’s been recommended by many and I just can’t get into it but feel compelled to read it to see why others like it) off of my bed, I looked at the last paragraph on the page I had marked and it said simply, “There will always be more questions. Every answer leads to more questions. The only way to survive is to let some of them go.” (From every day by David Levithan) The angels started singing and the sun got brighter. I had my AHA! moment…and my sign from my dad. Not to mention, I suddenly knew why I had been reading the book to begin with.
Happy Birthday, Dad! Thank you for your message. It settled my mind and helped me wrap up a loose end in my third novel which I have not doubt is exactly what you would have done if you were standing right next to me.
I’m obsessed with moments. I capture them. I write about them. I rearrange words in my head looking for just the right combination to describe how they feel and how I want to remember them. But most importantly, I live through them. The good moments and the ones that shatter my heart in little ways and sometimes in ways I’m not sure even Krazy Glue can fix.
It’s being cast away by your teenager as you deliver pizzas to his hungry group of friends. And then it’s the text apologizing. It’s when you’re organizing your jewelry and your not-so-big ten-year-old tells you she’s always dreamed of wearing your earrings. It’s helping a seven-year-old find a tank top with straps at least two fingers wide. Or the toothy grin of the other seven-year-old when he presents his twin with a bunny from the class treasure box. And it’s the moment he tells you he’s sure you don’t love him because he’s in his room for the umpteenth time because he threw a baseball—a real baseball—at his sister even though he only meant for it to hit the arm of the chair she was sitting in. and not her thigh. It’s the teenager telling you Alaska prohibits billboards and the little brother giggling because he’s just figured out that s-h-e-l-l minus the s is a bad word as you drive down the same road for the thirteenth time in one afternoon.
It’s the little moments that make up the big picture. The big picture painting of our days. It’s the pennies that add up to the dollars. The pieces of sand that build the sandcastle. We make a mistake thinking it’s the big moments in our lives that matter the most. The moments covered in glitter and twinkly lights are images etched in our brains. But it’s the tiny ones that become the stitching that binds us together or rips us apart.
This year, the days spanning from May of 2013 until right now, has been enormous and filled with more than I ever felt I had a right to imagine. Hours have been spent with my heart sitting out on a limb and my toes crossing the boundaries of my carefully drawn box. Minutes were spent charging dreams and making new ones.
Birthdays and anniversaries make me dig deeper through the recesses of my mind. They make me look back and catalog the past and look to the future to carefully sketch out a path…drawn thinly in pencil.
See today, May 8th, is my book-iversary. Exactly one year ago, Tripped Up Love made its way into the world. And that changed everything. I now know with a new clarity that I can accomplish things—big things that mean something to me. Goals have become less abstract. Items have fallen off of my bucket list.
And this almost-here-birthday is making me think of this big, broad life. Forty-two years spent floating around trying to make sense of this thing we call reality. I’ve known Justin longer than I haven’t known him. I’ve been able to drink legally for as long as I haven’t been able to. Twenty-one years ago, Justin took me home to my apartment and sent me to bed with a garbage bag lining my sheets. And now that baseball-hat-wearing lost college student is a baseball-hat-wearing mama figuring out what truths actually matter.
I think I’ve got it figured out. I think I know what matters. I think I know where my priorities fall. And if I don’t, I’ve given myself permission…permission to mess up and try again…and I think this year is going to be even better.